Canticles, St. Paul's Cathedral Choir, S. Johnson, A. Carwood (Hyperion, 2014)
What remains unshakable is the beauty of the Victorian and Edwardian repertory that is the bread and butter of this choir. Settings of the grand Anglican translations of old liturgical texts like Vaughan Williams's Te Deum in G, the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis of Stanford's Evening Service in G, and John Ireland's Greater Love were robust, soaring, space-filling in the best way, the score or so of boys' voices on the top part balanced against the other three parts sung by a dozen men. As the Westminster Abbey Choir had done, Parry's epic, soupy-sentimental anthem I Was Glad represented the best of English royal ceremonial, evoked for the Anglophile royal fantasists in the crowd. Unlike the Westminster choir, the contemporary pieces on this program were not of the same quality: Will Todd's banal anthem The Call of Wisdom, the worst kind of Rutteresque Hallmarkiana, complete with the absurd use of the Zimbelstern stop; and Nico Muhly's repetitive but more effective Grief Is the Price We Pay for Love. Organist Simon Johnson had solid turns on two solo pieces, but William Walton's Orb and Scepter march cannot help but sound corny now, as understated and subtle as a circus calliope.
Grace Jean, A triumphant return across the pond (Washington Post, April 28)